The resilient athlete. Personality, psychological strategies and the ability to bounce back after a crisis in endurance sport
Key words: sport psychology, mental skills, endurance, long-distance running
Resilience or psychological resistance is generally understood to be the ability to overcome crises and to use them as a starting point for further development through personal and social resources. It is regarded as a key success factor for mental health and performance in sports (Hosseini, S.A. & Besharat, M.A., 2010). However, the definitions and thus also the tools for measuring and promoting resilience are different and vary from personal resources that are positively associated with a healthy development (Wagnis & Young, 1993, Schumacher et al., 2004) or « situation-elastic qualities » that help successfully deal with challenges in general (Heller, 2015) to a narrower, original definition of resilience: stress resistance or the ability to recover quickly from stressful events (Smith et al., 2008). Asendorpf & Neyer (2012) suggest that resilient people differ from less resilient people in their big five personality profile: they show lower neuroticism scores and slightly above average scores in the four other dimensions extraversion, openness, conscientiousness and agreeableness. Also a positive correlation with self-efficacy is assumed. In addition it has been shown that short and long-term successful athletes use certain psychological skills more often than less successful athletes (Hardy et al., 2010). These personal resources should be positively associated with resilience. This study seeks for answers to the following questions: Which personality profile is characteristic for resilient athletes compared to less resilient athletes? Can the postulated profile for resilient people be replicated in sport? What psychological strategies are associated with and may have a positive impact on resilience?
In an online survey with N = 362 (ultra) long-distance runners, the resilience (BRS-D, Ufer, 2016), self-efficacy (ASKU, Beierlein et al., 2013) and big-five personality traits (BFI-10, Rammstedt et al., 2013) were assessed. The sample was divided into subjects with high / low resilience, and possible differences in their personality profiles were analyzed. In a second sub-study, the online survey of N = 76 athletes recorded the resilience (BRS, Smith et al., 2008) as well as the use of psychological strategies (TOPS, Hardy et al., 2010) and examined them for possible correlations.
An expected relationship of resilience and self-efficacy is shown (rs = .47, p < .001). The personality profile of resilient athletes differs from less resilient athletes. They have significantly lower neuroticism values, F(1, 360) = 105.63, p < .001, and slightly above-average values in the four other dimensions of extraversion, F(1, 360) = 12.91, p < .001, openness, F(1,360) = 1.68, p = .20 n.s., conscientiousness, F(1, 360) = 15.76, p < .001, and agreeableness, F(1,360) = 6.49, p < .001. In addition, significant correlations between resilience and the use of seven sport psychological strategies were identified: self-talk (rs = .37, p < .001), emotional control (rs = .64, p < .001), automaticity (rs = .54, p < .001), visualisation (rs = .39, p < .001), activation (rs = .48, p < .001), negative cognitions (rs = .49, p < .001), attention control (rs = .54, p < .001).
The available data from the area of (ultra) long-distance running can replicate the postulated personality profile of resilient people by Asendorpf & Neyer (2012). In addition, the medium to high correlations of resilience with the use of sport psychological strategies suggests that psychological resistance can be positively influenced or trained.
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Ufer, M. (2016). Messung der psychischen Widerstandsfähigkeit: Teilvalidierung einer deutschsprachigen Version der Brief Resilience Scale (BRS-D) im Sportkontext. Paper presented at the 50th Anniversary Congress of the German Society of Psychology. Leipzig, Germany
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